On my daughter’s Twitter feed Monday:
I felt proud at her outrage and sad because this is yet another in a long line of national violent tragedies our children have grown up knowing. Our children, who were babies, preschoolers during 9/11 — is this to be their generation’s moniker? Here is a small (and I truly mean small) sampling of national violent attacks during their lives:
And this week, the Navy Yard.
I thought about when I was growing up. I’m certain there was violence and horrible, terrible things in the world. I remember my teachers in school writing on the chalkboard the number of days the hostages were held in Iran. My high school science teacher turned on the television in our biology classroom when President Reagan was shot. When Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, carrying a planeload of students returning home from their junior year abroad, I gathered with my college roommates, all of us also in our junior year and cried.
I’m certain there were more, but unlike my children, all of our children, I didn’t have Twitter or Facebook to flood me with a constant stream of news. It’s overwhelming and somewhat distancing. Desensitizing. Our parents were able to shield us. News was on television at 6 p.m. or in the newspaper — both vehicles far too boring to catch our childhood attention.
I asked my son how he felt about the shootings. He told me that it feels like it’s just one more. In a few months, there’ll be another.
It reminded me of something my daughter had written for the New York Jewish Week in their “Fresh Ink for Teens” blog.
“We are the future, but not if we are the targets,” she wrote. She was struck by how often the victims were children.
It was soon after Newtown, and she wrote about how often she has gathered at school for moments of silence — how often she has heard rallying cries of reforming gun control and increasing resources for those struggling with mental illness, and how often time passes and people move on.
Is it our new way of consuming news? Our attention is caught only by what happens to be trending at that moment and is distracted the next moment with the next important event, like a celebrity twerking.
Sofie wrote: “It was OK for us to blindly hope when we stood in a circle around the American flag in first grade, but we’re too old now to put our fate in other people’s hands. We can no longer close our eyes and hope someone else will voice our thoughts. We need to act. We need to talk and feel passionate and get angry and get sad and embrace these emotions so that we cannot sit back and wait.
“I know that the Sandy Hook tragedy could be the tipping point of gun control laws. I also know that some say everything will settle down, that we will return to our lives and nothing will come of this. Maybe we’ll remember Newtown once a year. Maybe we will stand in a circle around an American flag and blindly hope.
“But maybe this is our rallying cry. Maybe out of our sadness, anger and fear we open our eyes, become aware and create movement and proactive change regarding gun control and the treatment of mental health illnesses.
“Faceless terrorists scare me. Burning buildings scare me. Evil gunmen scare me. But what scares me most of all is the idea that the only reaction from Newtown will be blind hope.”
Less than a year later, we’re here again. Presumably a disturbed young man with a gun killing innocent victims on U.S. soil.
How many more tragedies will cut through our children’s lives before we truly do something? We can’t wait for them to grow up. We can’t risk that. It’s not enough to throw a Twitter hashtag or like a post or retweet and think we’ve done something meaningful. We need action and reform. And we need it now.
“We are the future, but not if we are the targets.”